Kristen Hersh - guitars, vocals
This recording of Kristen Hersh in concert at the Fez in New York City was captured on August 1st, 1997. Hersh rose to prominence as the leader of alt-rockers Throwing Muses. Her first solo LP, 1994's critically acclaimed Hips and Makers, was a departure from her fuzzy past, as she opted for a simpler, folky sound that translates well in this intimate concert.
Though her follow-up, Strange Angels, would not be released till the following year, she treats the crowd to some of those songs, one of which, "Gazebo Tree," leads the show. Over strummed chords, Hersh candidly sings about a troubled relationship. While many remember her most for her time with the Muses, these two songs serve as a reminder that much of her best work was on her own. Without a noisy backing band, Hersh's voice and sharp songwriting take center stage.
Hersh sounds comfortable by herself on stage, and her in between song banter is engrossing. She interjects a few personal stories along with plenty of jokes. Her disarming personality keeps the audience at ease and plugged in.
Among the show's highlights is a wonderful version of "Your Ghost" (the lead track of Hips and Makers), which closes the show. She deftly tacks it onto the end of the impassioned "Stained," a technique that gives both songs new life. "Teeth," "Close Your Eyes," and "The Cuckoo" are also standouts from Hips and Makers. While the majority of her set comes from her solo work, her retooled, stripped-down interpretation of the Muses' track "Serene" is a revelation. This recording is a testament to Hersh's many positive attributes: Her strong voice, great songwriting, and humble, down-to-earth disposition.
Kristin Hersh, best known for her work with seminal '90s alt-rockers Throwing Muses, has enjoyed a varied, if not enigmatic, career. She tasted mainstream success with the Muses' essential, The Real Ramona (Sire, 1999), which featured Hersh's quirky, occasionally jarring vocals, and the odd song structures of the Muses' first albums. However, it also contained the group's most accessible songs and most mature songwriting to date. From there, the Muses scored another big hit with "Bright Yellow Gun," from their University release (Sire, 1995).
Hersh has recently switched gears to focus on a solo career that began in 1994. In contrast to the jangling rock of Throwing Muses, much of her solo work is introspective and folky. She is also the lead vocalist and guitarist for the rollicking power-trio, Los Angeles-based 50 Foot Wave (that features long time Muses bass player, Bernard Georges), which sounds more like Joan Jett than Throwing Muses. There are very few artists who are able to dabble in so many different sounds while maintaining such a strong musical identity. Hersh has been able to do so because all of her projects feature signature catchy melodies and unrelenting passion.